Friday, September 9, 2022

Zoo City

Lauren Beukes
Completed 9/7/2022, Reviewed 9/9/2022
3 stars

This book is a little better than the rating I gave it.  I was just disappointed in it because there wasn’t much fantasy.  I realize this is an urban fantasy, but the book felt more like a murder mystery with a little magic thrown in.  The magic is interesting, having to do with animals attaching themselves to people, sort of like a tangible spirit animal for troubled people.  The prose is delightful.  The character development isn’t too bad.  It just didn’t add up into an enjoyable reading experience for me.  Nonetheless, this book won a couple of awards, the Clarke and the Red Tentacle, and was nominated for a few others.

Zinzi is a recovered alcoholic/addict who killed her own brother.  Sober now, she has a sloth that has bonded with her.  She has a gift for seeing the connection between people and their lost things.  She makes some money finding the lost items for people, but most of her income comes from running email scams.  When one of her lost item clients winds up dead, she’s a suspect, but also ends up looking for a missing person.  She doesn’t like finding missing persons because it isn’t her gift.  Next thing we know, she’s hired by an eccentric music producer to find a missing teen music sensation.  This could be her ticket out of the slums, known as Zoo City because of all the people with animals.  Instead it leads her into a dark underside of the city filled with murder and a little magic.

Zinzi is a nicely developed, believable character.  I really liked her.  She was smart, funny, and is stronger than you would expect.  I thought, though, that not many other characters were as well developed.  The closest we got was the eccentric record producer.  He was pretty slimy.  I thought he was done well, evoking distaste from the moment we meet him.  There were a lot of other characters, but many of them ran together for me.  I think it was more because I lost interest in the story than because of the writing.

As for the writing, I was quite impressed with it.  From the beginning, you feel like you are getting immersed in an interesting world.  The story is told in first person Zinzi, making you feel like you’re a part of Zoo City.  Where I lost it was when the magic took a back seat to the murder mystery.  Zinzi’s sloth is always around, but the magic really wasn’t.  You get some in the beginning and in the end, but little else.  This was too bad because I liked the general feel of the book, and if there could have been more development of the magic system, I think it would have made the murder mystery part more interesting.

I give this book three stars out of five.  Another one of these where the parts were greater than the whole.  I was expecting more.  I read this book for my in-person book club.  I don’t think I’d seek out the author again on my own.

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